The McGowan Government today released the finalised plan to rebalance Perth and Mandurah’s precious groundwater resources, which are at risk from the impacts of climate change and increasing use.
Release of the final plan follows several years of extensive stakeholder engagement and community consultation, as well as over six years of detailed scientific assessments and groundwater modelling.
The plan includes the release of the new Gnangara groundwater allocation plan and alignment of garden bore sprinkler rosters with the scheme sprinkler roster, which combined will save 70 gigalitres of water per year.
To support the implementation of the Gnangara groundwater allocation plan and the garden bore sprinkler roster, the McGowan Government will invest $11.5 million over the next four years to support the horticulture industry, local government and garden bore users adapt.
Since 1980, the impacts of climate change, reduced rainfall and increased groundwater abstraction has seen water tables fall by up to 10 metres – a 1,000GL loss of aquifer storage, equivalent to 1,000 Optus Stadiums full of water.
Our precious groundwater systems supply up to 40 per cent of Perth’s drinking water, as well as water for industry and horticulture, garden bores, parks and other green spaces. They also support highly valued environmental assets such as wetlands, bushland and street trees right across Perth and Mandurah.
Under the plan announced today, large licensed water users north of the Swan River, including Water Corporation, industry, irrigators and local governments, will be required to reduce their groundwater abstraction as part of the new Gnangara groundwater allocation plan from July 2028.
Water Corporation will reduce their abstraction by 27 per cent, while reductions in water entitlements for most other licensed groundwater users has been limited to just 10 per cent. Schools and hospitals will be exempt from any reductions in water entitlement.
Commercial nurseries and tree farms will also be exempt from the reductions in water abstraction, as they are comparatively small water users and provide the plants and trees which help reduce the urban heat effect in our suburbs caused by climate change.
The State Government will work closely with the nursery and tree farm sector to develop new waterwise standards.
Reductions in groundwater allocations to agriculture are limited to 10 per cent. In 2016, under the previous Liberal National Government, it was proposed that there would be reductions in groundwater allocations of 25 per cent.
The McGowan Government has already committed $600,000 to support the North Wanneroo irrigated agriculture sector with transitioning to reduced groundwater availability through water efficiency programs.
The new plan provides a further $1 million to support agricultural licensees within the Gnangara plan area who are outside the North Wanneroo area with the transition through water efficiency programs.
Funding of $4 million will also be made available for local governments within the Gnangara plan area to assist them in the preparation and management of parks, street trees and open spaces with the transition to reduced groundwater availability, ensuring we can keep our suburbs cool and liveable.
Garden bores currently draw about one fifth (22 per cent or around 90GL) of groundwater taken from aquifers in the Perth and Mandurah area, mostly for irrigating lawns and gardens.
As part of the plan announced today, the domestic garden bore sprinkler roster will align with the two-days-per-week sprinkler roster for scheme water users in Perth and Mandurah from September 1, 2022, saving up to 30GL per year.
The majority of households in Perth and Mandurah have been on the two-day sprinkler roster for more than 20 years and have managed to have healthy and vibrant gardens.
No infringements will be issued during the first 12 months, with a focus placed on an education campaign to enable garden bore owners to adapt to the sprinkler roster change and implement waterwise measures into their gardens.
The State Government, through Water Corporation, is committing $6.5 million in funding to assist households with making their gardens more water efficient. This includes rebates on smart irrigation technology, spring sprinkler system check-ups and waterwise workshops.
Information on water efficient gardening and products, along with how to apply for rebates, will be available on the Water Corporation website at Waterwise Advice.
As stated by Water Minister Dave Kelly:
“The impacts of climate change, reduced rainfall and increased use have had a significant effect on Perth’s precious groundwater resources.
“We need to reduce our groundwater use in order to minimise the impact that climate change is having on our wetlands, bushland, street trees, recreational parks and groundwater quality.
“By everyone making small changes to how they use groundwater, we can deliver environmental benefits, provide industry with clarity and certainty, and protect this precious resource for future generations.
“$11.5 million in funding will be made available through a range of programs to assist groundwater users from industry to local government and domestic bore owners, as they transition to reduced groundwater.”